Tips for Translating Sustainability Reports


Sustainability is an increasingly important topic, both for individuals and for companies. Companies that want to show their commitment to sustainability can do so by publishing a sustainability report. These reports demonstrate the company’s values and highlight its goals in relation to the environment, society, and governance (ESG). However, sustainability reports need to do more than make lofty promises – they need to be factual, realistic, and credible, not only to inspire key stakeholders like shareholders and investors, but also to meet stringent legal and regulatory requirements.


Companies that want to convey their commitment to sustainability to a wider audience will often have their sustainability reports translated into different languages. This makes it easier for important groups like shareholders, customers, and employees to understand the company’s sustainability activities and objectives. However, translating sustainability reports is a complex task that requires not only an understanding of the language into which it is being translated, but also the complex terminology and rules related to sustainability reporting.


In this blog post, we’ll look at some of the key elements of such reports as well as some of the applicable laws and regulations that companies need to adhere to. We’ll then provide a few tips to ensure that the translated sustainability report meets its objectives and reaches a wider audience.


What Goes into a Sustainability Report?


Sustainability reports provide information about a company’s business practices and their impact on the environment. The reports typically cover a wide range of topics, including the company’s greenhouse gas emissions, waste reduction efforts, energy consumption, human rights, labor practices, and community engagement, among other topics. The purpose of a sustainability report is to show the company’s commitment to sustainable business practices, highlight areas of improvement, and provide stakeholders with information about the company’s performance in this area.


What elements do sustainability reports typically include? A good report will include a statement of materiality. This statement tells readers which elements are relevant, or material, for the company. The report should also include objectives – areas where the company currently falls short but would like to improve in the future. These objectives should be specific and measurable. Objectives that are not clear are less believable and risk jeopardizing the company’s credibility. Detailing a specific strategy for achieving the objectives outlined in the report will increase trust in it. Finally, a good sustainability report will include performance measurements and benchmarking to show that the objectives have been met and to what extent.


Key Sustainability Reporting Legislation


When preparing sustainability reports, companies need to adhere to a number of standards, laws and regulations. There are international standards such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), regional requirements like the EU’s Corporate Sustainability Directive, and national laws like Germany’s Act to Strengthen Nonfinancial Reporting by Companies in Their Management Reports and Group Management Reports (German: Gesetz zur Stärkung der nichtfinanziellen Berichterstattung der Unternehmen in ihren Lage- und Konzernlageberichten). Companies that fail to adhere to standards or comply with regulations may face legal and reputational risks, including fines, lawsuits, and damage to their brand or public standing.


In the EU, the adoption of the CSRD in January 2023 means increased reporting requirements for companies. Under this directive, companies with more than 250 employees and at least €40 million in annual revenue, including foreign/non-EU companies with at least one subsidiary or branch in the European Union, will have to publish a sustainability report. The directive stipulates requirements concerning what must be included in the report and when it has to be published.


Tips for Translating Sustainability Reports


Translating sustainability reports can be a complex process, especially because the reports often involve technical and highly specialized language. Following are some tips to ensure the success of your translated sustainability report:


  1. Work with a translation provider with expertise in the area of sustainability


When translating a sustainability report, it’s important to work with a translation provider that has expertise in these topics. A provider with the relevant experience can help ensure that the translation accurately reflects the concepts and terminology used in the original report. They can also identify any issues or discrepancies in the source text that might impact the translation.


  1. Create a glossary of sustainability terms


Sustainability reports often contain technical and specialized language that may be unfamiliar to non-experts. To ensure that the translation is accurate, it’s helpful to create a glossary of terms. This glossary can be used by the translator to ensure that they are using the correct terminology in the translation. Ideally, the translation provider will have a terminologist on staff to help with this task.


  1. Ensure consistency


Consistency is key when translating sustainability reports. It’s important to ensure that the translation is consistent throughout the entire report as well as previous versions. This can be achieved by using translation memory tools. Translation memory tools help maintain consistency by storing previously translated text and suggesting translations for similar text, a process known as leveraging the translation memory.


  1. Budget sufficient time and resources


Translating a sustainability report is not an easy task, and it requires careful planning and sufficient resources. It’s important to allocate enough time for the translation process, including editing and final proofreading. Rushing the translation process can lead to errors and inaccuracies, which can damage the company’s reputation and credibility. Furthermore, it’s important to allocate adequate resources to the translation process, including working with a professional translation provider and using translation tools.


  1. Apply quality controls


Quality controls are an essential element of a successful sustainability translation. Robust controls will help not only with the translation itself but can also highlight any problems with the source text as well. Because sustainability reports are published and play a crucial role in the company’s reputation and compliance with laws and regulations, any issues with the translation can have serious reputational or financial consequences. Therefore, stringent quality controls are essential.




Sustainability reports are important for a number of reasons. They provide transparency for key stakeholders and accountability for companies. By reporting on their sustainability practices, companies demonstrate their commitment to environmental responsibility and are held more accountable for their activities. In addition, these reports help companies identify areas where they can improve their sustainability practices. Sustainability reports can also help companies build trust with shareholders, customers, investors, and the public.


Translating sustainability reports can be a complex process, but by following the tips provided in this post, companies can ensure the success of their translated sustainability report. This will help companies ensure that their sustainability reports are accurate, transparent, and effectively convey their sustainability practices to their stakeholders.


For more information about translating sustainability reports and how to make sure your report is a success, get in touch with GLS. We have more than 40 years’ experience making sure our clients get the highest possible quality.


By Jim Cohen